Voting Rights Roundup: US Postal Service could run out of funds and cause crisis for vote-by-mail

Voting Rights Roundup: US Postal Service could run out of funds and cause crisis for vote-by-mail
election, voting
Wausau, Wi, USA, March 22, 2020, 3M N95 1860 mask with cash money and the words vote in front of the American flag, horizontal Shutterstock/ Michael Tatman

LEADING OFF

 Congress: House Democrats, led by Oversight and Reform Committee chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, have warned that the U.S. Postal Service is at serious risk of shutting down by June if Congress does not swiftly act to guarantee its solvency and protect its workers. Should that doomsday scenario come to pass, it would make it impossible for states to hold elections by mail, which experts have widely recommended as the safest option to preserve voting access amid the coronavirus pandemic.


The postal service has experienced a dramatic drop in the volume of mail being sent, thanks in large part to business closures, alongside a dramatic increase in the need to purchase protective equipment for workers. An uptick in package delivery has not been enough to make up the shortfall in revenues. Republicans have long supported efforts to privatize the postal service, which would raise the cost and reduce services for Americans in many communities. Because the GOP has passed legislation to cripple the post office in order to encourage such privatization, the postal service faces far different budgetary constraints than any other federal agency.

​The USPS has been barred from being subsidized with taxpayer funds since the 1980s and instead must remain profitable on its own. Republicans also passed a law in 2006 that requires the agency to prefund its retiree health benefits 75 years into the future, costing the agency more than $5 billion a year. While prefunding benefits is by no means a bad idea on its own, no other federal agency—let alone the postal service's private competitors—operates under anything like that requirement, putting the postal service at a huge disadvantage.

If the postal service faced a more level playing field among its competitors when it came to pension obligations, its services would likely be more competitive and able to earn more revenue—and therefore it would not be facing its current shortfall. As well, letting this essential service rely on taxpayer subsidies at least in emergency situations would eliminate the potential for a crisis like this one entirely.

Congressional Democrats had proposed giving the postal service a $25 billion infusion and forgiving its $11 billion in debt to avoid a cataclysmic shutdown, but Senate Republicans stripped it out of the recently passed $2 trillion stimulus bill. Instead, the GOP supported a provision to let the agency borrow $10 billion from the Treasury Department instead of its yearly maximum of $3 billion. However, such a loan could only be used for operating expenses and not paying off debt, leading the agency to warn that the proposal didn't go nearly far enough.

It's critical that Congress passes a law to mandate and fund an expansion of mail voting in the states to ensure that tens of millions of voters aren't denied the ability to safely vote, and some states at least are already taking steps to do so on their own. However, in the worst-casescenario, where the postal service must cut or cease operations, states relying on mail voting would wind up in an impossible situation.

House Democrats were in a position of maximum leverage prior to the passage of the last stimulus bill, but they caved to Republicans when they agreed to a package that didn't include adequate election protection measures or direct postal service funding. However, they may still have a chance if further stimulus efforts take shape, though any hopes rest on whether Republicans recognize that their November election odds depend heavily on the state of the economy.

ELECTION CHANGES

The following states have recently moved their elections for various positions:

New York: from April 28 to June 23 primaries (presidential primary and 27th Congressional District special general election)

Puerto Rico: from April 26 to an undetermined future date (presidential primary)

South Dakota: from April 14 through May 26 to any Tuesday in June (optional; local only)

West Virginia: from May 12 to June 9 (presidential and downballot primaries)

You can stay on top of all changes to statewide primary dates by bookmarking our 2020 calendar.

 Arizona: Supporters of six ballot initiatives have filed a lawsuit asking Arizona's conservative-majority Supreme Court to temporarily allow the electronic gathering of petition signatures needed to put these measures on the ballot ahead of the state's July 2 deadline. They argue that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has made it all but impossible to responsibly and safely continue gathering signatures in-person. They say that the state could readily expand online gathering instead by using the existing online system that candidates for elected office already use.

Supporters of two other initiative efforts, including one to expand voting access and implement other election reforms, have filed a similar lawsuit in federal court. The proposed voting rights measure would establish automatic voter registration through the state's Motor Vehicle Division, same-day voter registration, and in-person polling places on Native American tribal lands. It would also expand early voting, allow audits of election results, impose ethics and lobbying restrictions, lower the private campaign contribution limits, and significantly expand Arizona's existing public financing system.

Arizona is by no means the only state dealing with the pandemic's fallout for pro-democracy ballot initiatives. The crisis is complicating efforts to put similar voting access expansions on the November ballot in Missouri and Ohio.

 Alabama: Republican Gov. Kay Ivey says she opposes legislation that would remove Alabama's excuse requirement for voting absentee. Ivey said that such a move "raises the potential for voter fraud," though her office did not respond to follow-up questions as to why she thinks so. Almost three dozen states allow voters to cast ballots by mail without an excuse and none have reported any non-trivial problems with fraud as a result.

Republican Secretary of State John Merrill previously relaxed the state's excuse requirement, allowing any voter to request an absentee ballot for the state's July 14 primary runoffs by checking a box labeled "I have a physical illness or infirmity which prevents my attendance at the polls" on their ballot applications. Ivey says she plans to avail herself of this option. In a recent interview, Merrill said that only "liberal extremists" are interested in expanding mail voting even though he supported a bill to eliminate the excuse requirement in 2017.

 Arizona: Arizona's Republican-run legislature went into recess last week without considering a proposal by Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs to allow the state to conduct its Aug. 4 downballot primaries or the November general election by mail. Lawmakers are set to reconvene on April 13.

 Arkansas: A federal judge has rejected a lawsuit that sought to extend the deadline by which absentee ballots cast in Arkansas' March 31 primary runoffs had to be received in order to count. Under Arkansas law, absentee ballots must be received by Election Day. The suit, backed by the NAACP, had asked that officials accept any ballots they receive within at least 10 days of the election, so long as they were postmarked by Election Day. The judge said that plaintiffs had lacked standing and left the current deadline in place.

 District of Columbia: Officials in Washington, D.C. have said that the city will significantly cut back on in-person voting in the June 2 primary, dropping from 144 polling places to just 20. Instead, officials are encouraging voters to cast an absentee mail ballot, which does not require an excuse.

 Georgia: State House Speaker David Ralston has finally acknowledged why he's repeatedly asked Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to delay Georgia's May 19 presidential and downballot primaries: He doesn't want more Democrats to vote. In a new interview, Ralston said that Raffensperger's plan to mail absentee ballot applications to every active registered voter in the state would be "extremely devastating to Republicans and conservatives in Georgia" because it would "certainly drive up turnout."

Those remarks echo recent comments by Donald Trump, who said that proposals by congressional Democrats to safeguard elections would lead to "levels of voting that if you ever agreed to it you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again." Ralston has been hoping that a later primary would derail Raffensperger's ballot application efforts by allowing the state to rely chiefly on in-person voting. However, Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp, both Republicans, say they lack the power to postpone the election a second time (previously, Raffensperger delayed the March 24 presidential primary until May).

Ralston could of course pass legislation changing the date and manner of the election, and Republican leaders even have the power to reconvene the legislature for a special session. However, Ralston sent members of the House home several weeks ago and suspended the legislature's current session indefinitely.

 Hawaii: Hawaii election officials will mail every voter a postage-prepaid card to update their signature for voting by mail to help ensure that votes aren't rejected because the signature on their ballot envelopes supposedly doesn't match the one on file. Separately, Hawaii Democrats have announced that they will count any mail-in ballots cast in their presidential primary that they receive by May 22 and will announce results on May 23. Previously, the party had canceled all in-person voting, which had been set for April 4.

 Idaho: Republican Secretary of State Lawerence Denney says he will send absentee ballot applications to every registered voter ahead of Idaho's May 19 downballot primaries. Earlier in the week, Republican Gov. Brad Little said the primary would be conducted by mail but at the time did not announce any plans to make mail ballots more accessible. Little had also rejected Denney's proposal to postpone the primary to June 16 or later.

It's also unclear whether the state will provide any in-person voting options for the many voters who are not able to participate by mail. Without such options, Idaho could leave itself vulnerable to a lawsuit.

 Illinois: Leaders of both chambers of Illinois' Democratic-run legislature say they are supportive of conducting the November general election by mail as the default voting method, an idea recently floated by Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker. Democratic state Sen. Julie Morrison says she plans to introduce legislation when lawmakers reconvene later this month that would send each voter an absentee ballot.

 Iowa: Republican Secretary of State Paul Pate says he will mail an absentee ballot application, with a postage-paid return envelope, to all 2 million active registered voters in Iowa ahead of the state's June 2 downballot primaries. However, this effort will miss any voters marked as "inactive" on the rolls. Registrations typically get marked as such when mail to these voters is returned as undelivered, but such voters still possess valid registrations and a portion of them wind up voting, typically in person.

 Kansas: Kansas Democrats have canceled all in-person voting for their May 2 presidential primary. The party had previously said it would send mail ballots with postage-paid return envelopes to all registered Democrats in the state. Anyone who does not receive a ballot can, starting on April 10, request one online through April 24. Ballots must be received by May 2 in order to count.

 Kentucky: Kentucky's Republican-run legislature has passed a bill that would allow the secretary of state and governor to jointly change the "manner" in which an election that takes place during a state of emergency can be held (under current law, only the "time" and "place" may be altered). Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams says the measure would give him added "flexibility," though he was vague on details, saying he'd like to prepare for an election with "limited in-person voting and expanded voting by mail."

Since Kentucky requires an excuse to cast an absentee ballot, any expansion to mail voting would likely have to involve a relaxation or waiver of that requirement. Adams did specify that he had "ruled out any move to a universal vote-by-mail system." It's not clear whether Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear will sign the legislation, a large bill mostly devoted to revenues that contains at least one provision Beshear previously vetoed as a stand-alone measure. However, Republicans could override a Beshear veto with a simple majority.

 Maryland: Maryland's Board of Elections reversed itself on Thursday and recommended to Gov. Larry Hogan that each of the state's 24 counties provide at least one in-person voting location for the June 2 presidential and downballot primaries. Hogan must now decide whether to approve the board's recommendations. An earlier version of the board's plan to mail ballots to all voters would have eliminated in-person polling sites altogether, which would have risked disenfranchising many groups of voters, including those:

  • with certain disabilities, particularly the visually impaired;
  • without housing;
  • with language barriers;
  • who should have received a ballot but do not;
  • who are displaced due to the pandemic;
  • who currently can't obtain a state ID necessary to register to vote because the DMV is closed; and
  • who are simply difficult to reach by mail.

Of that last group, known as "inactive" voters because mail sent to them is undeliverable, the board's counsel says that up to 4% wind up participating in a typical election. The ACLU and advocates for the blind had expressed serious concerns about the board's plans, which likely spurred them to reverse course.

 Massachusetts: Republican Gov. Charlie Baker has signed a bill that gives towns the ability to reschedule any local election that was set to take place by May 30 to as late as June 30. The measure also allows all voters to request an absentee mail ballot in elections held before July. The bill does not apply to the state's Sept. 1 downballot primaries, however.

 Missouri: An organization representing county clerks in Missouri has asked the state's Republican-run legislature to let any voter cast an absentee ballot in an emergency like the present one. The clerks also want to allow voters to request absentee ballots online. Lawmakers are tentatively set to return next week for a two-day session but their top priority will be passing a budget.

 New Mexico: The New Mexico Supreme Court has set arguments for April 14 in a case brought by 27 of the state's 33 county clerks, who have asked that the state's June 2 presidential and downballot primaries be conducted by mail. In their request, the clerks specify that some in-person voting locations would remain in operation to assist those unable to vote by mail. Democratic Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, who is named as the defendant is the clerks' suit, recently said that "an all-mail election is not likely."

Republicans filed a lawsuit to oppose the request and say that the matter should be handled by the legislature, which they say could be called in for a special session. Democrats, however, oppose the idea of a special session, fearing that convening lawmakers and their staff could exacerbate the spread of the coronavirus. The justices have specifically asked the parties and Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to opine on whether the legislature can meet electronically.

 New York: A handful of Democratic lawmakers are renewing their efforts to pass a bill to expand online voter registration in New York City, which currently only covers voters with a DMV-issued ID and is therefore unavailable for a large number of voters given the high proportion of city residents who do not drive. The heavily Democratic City Council passed a law to do just that in 2017, but the state Board of Elections stymied the council by adding additional barriers.

 North Carolina: Phil Berger, the Republican leader of North Carolina's state Senate, has rejected ideas put forth by the state's Board of Elections to make mail voting easier and to make Election Day a holiday. Meanwhile, the board has partnered with the state's DMV and will now, for the first time, allow voters with state IDs to register to vote online. Nine states representing 1 in 7 Americans still do not allow online registration along the lines that North Carolina now will.

 Ohio: On Friday, a federal district court rejected a lawsuit that had been brought earlier in the week by civil rights groups seeking an order that Ohio officials delay the state's April 28 primaries and mail ballots (with postage-paid return envelopes) to every voter who has not yet voted.

Under a new law recently signed by Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, the state will eliminate almost all in-person voting. Instead, it will send postcards to voters explaining how to request an absentee ballot application. Voters would then have to print out applications on their own, or request one be mailed to them, and then mail them in. (Applications cannot be submitted online, but GOP Secretary of State Frank LaRose said voters who lack a printer could make a hand-written request so long as they provide the necessary information.) They would then have to mail in their absentee ballots.

The voting rights advocates who brought this suit had argued that there isn't enough time to complete this multi-step process before April 28 and wanted the court to pick a new date. Plaintiffs also said the state's voter registration period, which ended on Feb. 18, must be immediately re-opened until 30 days before voting concludes in order to comply with federal law, but the judge denied their motion for a temporary restraining order.

 South Carolina: South Carolina's Election Commission has made a number of recommendations to Republican Gov. Henry McMaster and the GOP-run legislature to ensure the state's elections can run properly despite the threat of the coronavirus. Those suggestions include:

  • Removing the excuse requirement to vote absentee
  • Allowing voters to request absentee ballots online
  • Removing the requirement to have witnesses sign absentee ballots
  • Moving to a vote-by-mail system in which every voter would be sent a ballot
  • Allowing early voting for the first time

Lawmakers would have to pass a bill to enact these changes, or to postpone the state's June 9 downballot primaries. However, McMaster said he would defer to the legislature, which recently adjourned without taking any action on elections and will meet for just one day next week to address budgetary matters. The legislature may reconvene at a later date.

 Texas: Texas' secretary of state's office has taken a small step toward expanding access to mail voting by advising county election officials that voters may request an absentee ballot if they have any condition that precludes them from voting in-person "without a likelihood of needing personal assistance or of injuring the voter's health." If officials are lenient, that provision of law could allow voters concerned about the coronavirus to obtain absentee ballots. Texas Democrats filed a lawsuit last month asking that all voters be allowed to vote absentee for this reason.

The office's new letter, from Director of Elections Keith Ingram, also suggests that county officials seek court orders to allow expanded mail voting options for "those affected by quarantines." However, as the Houston Chronicle notes, the secretary of state's guidance is not mandatory, only advisory.

 Vermont: Republican Gov. Phil Scott has signed a law making a number of temporary changes to Vermont election laws to address the coronavirus pandemic. Among the most significant, Democratic Secretary of State Jim Condos now has the power to order that any election this year be conducted by mail, as long as Scott agrees.

 Wisconsin: Wisconsin's Tuesday elections careened toward chaos as Democratic Gov. Tony Evers announced on Friday that he would call a special session of the legislature for Saturday, imploring Republican leaders to immediately pass legislation postponing the presidential primary and state Supreme Court general election so that the state could instead hold it by mail. But just a short while afterward, top Republicans vehemently shot down Evers' request and vowed not to take any action to protect voting.

Evers called the special session after a federal judge on Thursday declined to delay in-person voting even as citizens remained under a "stay at home order" due to the coronavirus pandemic and officials across the state said they would be unable to operate the vast majority of polling sites. Republicans swiftly appealed the parts of that order expanding voting access, as we'll detail below.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge William Conley concluded that, despite the grave health risks, plaintiffs had failed to demonstrate that the harms posed by proceeding with Tuesday’s presidential primary and elections for state and local office outweighed the harms that postponing them would cause. Conley did, however, agree to give voters one extra day to request absentee ballots, moving the deadline from Thursday to Friday.

He also relaxed the requirement that those voting absentee have their ballot witnessed, allowing voters to instead provide a written statement explaining they were "unable to safely obtain a witness certification" despite reasonable efforts. However, he left it to the "individual discretion of clerks as to whether to accept a voter’s excuse." He also ruled that votes already cast without witness signatures could be deemed valid so long as those voters affirm they weren't able to safely obtain them.

Most significantly, Conley ordered officials to accept any mail ballots they received by 4 PM on April 13, extending the deadline from 8 PM on Election Day. Conley emphasized that his directive did not specify ballots be postmarked by a particular date, meaning voters could in theory cast ballots after April 7. In a subsequent clarification, Conley also said that results could not be released until the 13th.

Despite these relatively modest adjustments, Republicans immediately filed an appeal, which the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals granted in part late on Friday by staying the section of Conley's ruling that had allowed voters to cast absentee ballots without witness signatures. However, the appellate court denied the GOP's request to block the extension of the deadline to return absentee ballots. It's possible that either party could file further appeals in the next few days, but given the 7th Circuit's heavy lean to the right and the Supreme Court's conservative majority being strongly opposed to voting rights, Democrats likely won't have much luck on any appeal.

GOP leaders in the legislature for weeks have resisted calls to postpone the election, and with a crucial seat on the state Supreme Court in play, they may be counting on the virus to disproportionately suppress votes on the left. In part that's because social distancing is more difficult in denser urban areas, which make up the bulk of the Democratic vote; voters in more sparsely populated rural areas may be less deterred from voting in person. In addition, polling, including a new survey from Marquette Law School, shows Republicans are simply less concerned about the coronavirus in general.

But it's not just Republicans who've stood in the way of moving the election: Wisconsin Democrats have been furious with Evers for also opposing a postponement until the last minute. Evers had criticized legislative Republicans for not acting, but Democrats said he should have called a special session earlier to put pressure on them, something he declined to do until Friday. Evers has repeatedly maintained that he wouldn't try to unilaterally delay the election, with a spokesperson saying, "He doesn’t want to do it, and he also doesn’t have the authority to do it."

That's left the administration of in-person voting in an extremely precarious state. Even though election officials have received an enormous surge in absentee ballot applications—over 1.1 million as of Thursday—they also told Conley that some 500,000 voters "would still need to vote in person."

Where they will do so is in grave doubt. In Milwaukee, for instance—the state's largest city and home to a large majority of its black residents—officials announced that polling locations have been reduced from 180 to just 5, one for every 10,000 voters expected to vote in-person, and Democratic Mayor Tom Barrett even asked voters not to vote at the polls. Other cities such as Green Bay face similar closures due to a dearth of poll workers. Evers has called up the National Guard to operate polling places, though he acknowledged to Conley that Guard members "will not satisfy all of the current staffing needs."

If in the end Wisconsin cannot pull off an acceptable election, there may be one final twist. In a footnote, Conley said he would "reserve on the question as to whether the actual voter turnout, ability to vote on election day or overall conduct of the election and counting votes timely has undermined citizens’ right to vote." In other words, Conley is suggesting that he might entertain further challenges after the election, though it's impossible to say what sort of post facto remedies he might envision.

P.S. Separately, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled earlier this week that Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell may not advise all voters they can request an absentee ballot without presenting a copy of their ID because they are "indefinitely confined" as a result of the governor's stay-at-home order. The court said that McDonell must follow guidance provided by the Wisconsin Elections Commission, which concluded, "Designation of indefinitely confined status is for each individual voter to make based upon their current circumstance." Milwaukee County Clerk George Christenson had also posted similar advice.

ELECTORAL REFORM

 St. Louis, MO: Supporters of an effort to change how St. Louis, Missouri votes in city elections have obtained enough valid signatures to put an initiative on the Nov. 3 ballot that would replace the current system of partisan primaries decided by plurality winner with a nonpartisan "approval voting" primary where the top-two finishers advance to the general election runoff. The city's Board of Aldermen has the option of passing the proposal itself (thereby removing it from the ballot), or it could place its own similar measure on the ballot, but if it doesn't act, this initiative will appear on the ballot as-is.

Approval voting is a relatively novel election reform that was only adopted for elections to public office in the United States for the first time in 2018, when Fargo, North Dakota passed an initiative enacting it for local elections. The system generally works by letting voters cast as many votes as there are candidates, with up to one vote per candidate. St. Louis would also use a variation on approval voting where the two candidates who win the most total votes would advance to a subsequent runoff instead of having the first-place finisher win outright in the first round, as is the case in Fargo.

The goal of this system is to eliminate the "spoiler" problem, where a candidate wins without majority support only because their opposition was divided. The approval approach attempts to ensure that the most broadly acceptable candidate prevails.

St. Louis is heavily black and heavily Democratic, so the Democratic primary effectively decides who will win most elections. Several recent elections have seen the victor prevail with just modest pluralities, such as the 2017 Democratic primary for mayor in which Lyda Krewson won by a 32-30 margin. Krewson is white and defeated a divided field of black opponents; had the city required majority support to win the nomination, this outcome could have been different.

FELONY DISENFRANCHISEMENT

 Florida: The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has denied Florida Republicans' request for all 13 judges on the circuit to rehear their appeal after a three-judge panel had refused to overturn a lower court ruling that blocked Florida from enforcing the GOP's poll tax on the 17 plaintiffs who were unable to pay it off to regain their voting rights. Donald Trump flipped the 11th Circuit to a majority of Republican appointees late last year, making the circuit's refusal to rehear the case en banc surprising.

The case is still proceeding on the merits and will go to trial on April 27, but the lower court's temporary injunction will remain in effect. The district court recently signaled it would likely extend its ruling to the entire class of citizens affected by the poll tax, which could be several hundred thousand Floridians.

CAMPAIGN FINANCE

 Seattle, WA: The Supreme Court has declined to hear a case challenging the constitutionality of Seattle, Washington's public campaign finance system, which gives every registered voter four $25 vouchers that they can donate to their preferred candidates in city elections. Seattle became the first major U.S. city to adopt this type of public financing reform following a 2015 ballot measure, and its adoption led to a significant increase in small donations in subsequent local elections.

REDISTRICTING

 Redistricting: On Friday, the documentary feature film "Slay the Dragon," which explores gerrymandering and the successful effort to eliminate it in Michigan, will become available for online streaming and video on demand. Featuring reform activists and redistricting experts, including Daily Kos Elections' own Stephen Wolf, the film documents the impact of widespread (largely Republican) gerrymandering efforts after the 2010 census. A central focus is the key swing state of Michigan, including how GOP gerrymandering there enabled the Flint water crisis and how a grassroots movement in 2018 used a ballot initiative to finally end lawmakers' ability to draw their own districts.

VOTER SUPPRESSION

 Florida: Florida's Republican-run state government has settled a Democratic-backed lawsuit over the GOP's ban on early voting locations on college campuses by loosening restrictions that Republicans had enacted last year to get around a previous court ruling in this case.

In 2018, a federal court struck down a rule that had banned early voting on college campuses, allowing almost 60,000 voters to cast early ballots on campuses across the state that year. However, Republicans followed up last year by passing a law imposing indirect restrictions that would have effectively precluded early voting on campuses via an onerous parking availability requirement that most campuses couldn't possibly meet.

Democrats therefore continued to sue, and the new settlement significantly relaxes those parking restrictions. Consequently, county election officials will have the ability to establish early voting sites on campuses for the August state primary and November general election.

 Kentucky: As expected, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear has vetoed the voter ID bill that Republicans recently passed. However, Republicans will almost certainly be able to override his veto, since it only takes a simple majority to do so.

 Tennessee: In a surprising reversal, Tennessee Republicans have passed a law that repeals certain parts of a 2019 law that they had enacted to add criminal and civil penalties to key parts of voter registration drives, which a federal court had temporarily blocked last September as likely to infringe upon voters' constitutional rights. Republicans passed this 2019 law after organizers registered tens of thousands of new black voters in 2018, since black voters are more likely to be registered through such drives.

For those who had registered 100 or more voters, the law had made it a crime to do so without completing a state training course. It also made it a crime to fail to submit completed forms within 10 days. At the same time, groups that submitted 100 or more incomplete or inaccurate registration forms would have faced civil fines, which could have reached a steep $10,000 per county (Tennessee has 99 counties) if more than 500 such forms were found to have been submitted in a given county.

However, the revised law still includes a measure to make registration drives less effective by making it a crime to pay workers based on the number of registrations they gather. Instead, organizers would have to pay hourly or rely on volunteers, which eliminates the financial incentive for registration drive workers to register as many voters as they can during their shifts.

Repealing the challenged parts of this law will likely render the litigation over it moot. By capitulating in this manner, Republicans have now signaled their own doubts about their prospects for success in court.

SUPREME COURT ELECTIONS

 Georgia: Georgia voters have filed a federal lawsuit challenging Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger's decision to cancel a May 19 state Supreme Court election. Raffensperger canceled the election after GOP-appointed Justice Keith Blackwell announced he intends to resign in November, which is several weeks before his term was set to end. The move gave Republican Gov. Brian Kemp the power to appoint Blackwell's replacement and put off a potentially competitive election until 2022.

This lawsuit comes after a state court recently rejected a lawsuit brought by candidates from both parties who had intended to run in the now-canceled nonpartisan election. The plaintiffs in that case are appealing to the Georgia Supreme Court, which is dominated by conservative justices.

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